Slavery, Abolitionists, & Compassion: Part 1

As the sexual revolution continues to spin out of control before our eyes, Christians are faced with a dilemma, “How do we oppose this evil and remain compassionate to people?” Much of the online dialogue has divided Christians in two camps: those who want to speak out against the action and those who think we should instead focus on showing compassion to individuals. Interestingly enough, those arguing for compassion often do not show that very compassion to their fellow Christians they are disagreeing with. 

As I have thought on this I am more and more convinced that this idea that both opposing the sexual revolution and showing compassion is not opposed to each other, but rather that opposition to this wickedness is true compassion. How did I come to this conclusion? The words and actions of Jesus Christ. Jesus is our example of love and compassion which we are to follow.

Jesus hung out and ate with some sinners, but he also rebuked and fought with other sinners. What was the difference? Why did he respond differently to different people? It is safe to say that in both scenarios Jesus was acting out of love and in both responses he remained compassionate (even if to our politically correct eyes it doesn’t appear so) even though his tactics changed depending on the context. 

The main factor for Jesus’ different actions appears to be how the sinner views his sin. To those who were under the burden of sin, who were oppressed by it, and who saw no hope for change, to those Jesus shows tender mercy by welcoming them and showing there is hope in him through repentance and faith. 

But there is another type of sinner, the one who loves his sin and thinks there is nothing wrong with his actions. To those sinners who call themselves righteous, those who celebrate and embrace their own wickedness and who call it ‘good,’ to those who further wickedness and its oppression of others,  Jesus’ compassion takes the form of hard rebukes in an attempt to get them to see their sin and to find healing through repentance and faith in him. His tactics changed, his goal did not. 

The difference between these two types of sinners is that one is humble and the other is proud. And this makes a world of difference. Jesus tells us as much in the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee who go to pray at the temple. The tax collector is humble and admits he is a sinner, the Pharisee is proud and he thinks he is notsinful. In the end, the humble one is forgiven, and the prideful one is not (Luke 18:9-14). Your relationship to your own sin makes a world of difference.

In our culture, the attitude of the Pharisees is found in the secular left. They believe themselves and their actions to be inherently good, even unquestionably good. They are proud and even celebrate their wickedness as something which is to be accepted, praised, and advanced. Moreover, they ostracize and marginalize anyone who lives out true righteousness by labeling them immoral, uneducated, bigoted, and simpletons. The parallels between the actions of the secular left in adherence to their holiness code and that of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day are rather striking.

So how do we show compassion to the prideful sinner? We must be like Jesus and rebuke him. That is compassion. We must oppose that which is wicked all-the-while remembering that these people are people whom we are trying to direct toward salvation. In rebuking them we must maintain the attitude of humility by refusing to become prideful ourselves knowing that we are saved by God’s grace alone. We are must not come to think of ourselves as righteous in ourselves as they do. Humility is important. This does not negate that compassion dictates that we oppose evil and slavery and we do so vehemently even as Christ did himself. 

So what does this have to do with slavery? Jesus in John 8 has an interesting encounter with a bunch of prideful Jews who believe they are righteous because of how they were born (in Abraham’s line). Jesus will have none of their thinking. This exchange is even more interesting because this group of Jews is said to have initially “believed” in Jesus (8:31), though it was not a genuine belief. 

Jesus says to these Jews they need to know the truth because it will set them free (8:31-32), but they object because they believe themselves to be free already (8:33)! Jesus is talking about spiritual freedom from sin, as he says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (8:34). These Jews were enslaved to sin, yet they refused to acknowledge  they were in slavery.  These slaves were so full of pride and their love of sin that they thought they were free. They thought they were morally right, sinless, and that Jesus was in the wrong! This leads Jesus to tell them they are of their father (8:38)  who is not Abraham as they claim, but in reality is the Devil (8:44).

See the form Jesus' compassion takes—he says to a bunch of sinners, who are slaves to sin, that they are the children of the Devil. This is how his compassion worked itself out in this situation. Jesus was willing to publicly call a spade a spade. Why did he take this tactic? Surely one reason was because this group of Jews was self-righteous, they denied they were sinful and thought they were morally justified because of how they were born! Couldn't Jesus just get in line  and treat them with more civility and affirm how they were born? But Jesus says, "You are not free, and you will never be free as long as you serve the Devil and reject the truth that freedom is only found in me." His compassion is found in that Jesus offers these slaves freedom by point out the truth of their situation. 

Jesus is the true abolitionist offering passage from the plantations of the South to the free states of the North, but these slaves love their slavery more than freedom. In their arrogance think their bondage is freedom. They thing right is wrong and wrong is right. This leads them to oppose true freedom (Jesus) and to promote slavery for themselves and for others!

The compassion of Jesus acts in such a way as to call out this wicked nonsense and be bluntly honest that they are so far gone that they are working for the ultimate slave master—Satan himself. It is here that Jesus throws his verbal punches in hopes to shake them to the core so that they may repent and find true freedom and that others may not be captured by this slavery. 

If your conception of Jesus is not large enough to include Jesus as he is found in John 8, then you have fallen prey to a false Jesus. He is our model of love and his love had a backbone and it had teeth. Jesus hates slavery to sin, and so should we. Slavery to sin is far worse than any form of physical slavery mankind has ever dreamed up. 

Jesus is the great abolitionist, and we are under his charge to continue the fight for freedom from sin by following his example and preaching the gospel, even when the sons of the Devil don’t want to listen  because they think  they are already free. Humility reminds us that we were once there as well and we are only free because someone confronted us about our own slavery. 

In part 2 of this blog post I will apply what this means for us today as we seek to battle the slavery of our day—the sexual revolution which promotes promiscuity, homosexuality, transgenderism, gender fluidity and others forms of wickedness. This ideology is enslaving millions of people around the world and yet it has the audacity to masquerade around as freedom. The Christian must be able to respond to this slavery with compassion of Christ and not mere sentimentality.